I’ve joked recently about my attempts to find a job. A real job. One where I do stuff and people pay me. Unlike writing, where I think about writing stuff and occasionally actually do write stuff, and sometimes I get paid four or five months later.
Don’t get me wrong. I love writing, and for a long time I had several fabulous editors I loved writing for. They are still fabulous but I’m not so much in love with crafting paragraphs for dollars. It kind of burned me out. It’s a lot of work for very, very little money, and as the industry has changed so has the income possibilities for writers like me. Lots of writing with pay tied to page views, which means that you not only have to write but then market the heck out of whatever you just wrote. All to reach minimum goals for minimum pay. It’s a great way to supplement a career as an expert something, but not such a great way to maintain a steady income.
I have a resume – at least, what I’ve always thought a resume should be. It’s a list of the jobs I’ve had for the last five years or so. For those of you actually more experienced at job searching in today’s culture, it probably will not surprise you to learn that my resume has yielded me zero responses.
That’s because, apparently, today’s resume isn’t supposed to be focused on your past job experiences but on your skills. As in “stuff you know how to do that people are willing to pay for.”
Over the last month or so, I’ve been brainstorming with friends (including my sister, who is a hot shot human resources expert) about what kind of job I might be good at. And like. And get paid for. (Those are all not mutually exclusive, I might add. Although it might be a lot to ask for.)
So what kind of job could I do? I am not trained in any speciality and I have been out of the traditional workplace for more than a decade. And let’s face it: I’m not really that much fun to be around all day long, especially if I’m hungry or need a nap.
I admit it. I’ve been spoiled.
My sister keeps telling me that I underestimate the effect that I have on people. She might have a point (if she meant that it’s a positive effect). I do very much like leading groups and I enjoy making people feel needed and special, taking time to include them in things when other people might not. But being nice isn’t really a marketable job skill, unless you can get paid just for making people happy. (And not in a job that requires you to stand on a streetcorner at midnight.)
Ada, my dog trainer friend, told me recently that she thinks I’d make a good dog trainer. For many years now, I’ve been an avid amateur student of dog behavior, communication, and health. I’ve read books, I’ve taken classes, I’ve done some online study. I volunteered at an animal shelter, I’ve interviewed and written about rescue groups. I even attempted to shadow a dog trainer. In short, I love all things dog. I can talk with legitimate knowledge about genetics, dog breeding, behavior, socialization, dog evolution and other dog-related topics. I love educating people about how to better communicate with their dogs, care for their dogs or choose a lifelone canine companion.
The problem? I’m kind of afraid of other people’s dogs. At the shelter, I worked at the front desk. I couldn’t even walk the dogs – partly due to the fact that several dogs I got chummy with ended up taking a one way trip to the tech room, if you get my drift. I don’t have the heart or the stomach for that.
But I also had several instances where I found myself, alone, trying to get a dog in or out of a cage without letting it escape (and not always successfully). I took one dog out for a walk and when he jumped up to put his paws on my shoulders, pinning me against the wall for several panic-filled minutes, I decided that maybe working with dogs wasn’t for me.
Plus, when I shadowed another dog trainer I learned that, in general, dog owners are pretty clueless and happy to stay that way, despite the fact that they are paying large sums of money to become educated on how to have better relationships with their dogs. My fear of strange dogs is eclipsed only by my low tolerance for stupid people.
And you already know about my lack of math skills. I mean, seriously. No numbers. When I was considering bartending as a possible career, it was the task of adding drink prices in my head that convinced me it wasn’t the job for me. Take three drinks at $2 each, then add in a drink that’s $3.50 and I’m in trouble. I need to figure that out by counting on my fingers; what do I do with the 50 cents?
So what am I qualified to do? Here are some of my skills. Somewhere out there, there has to be a job for me:
1) I can talk to people. I can talk to any people, any where, even if I don’t feel like talking. At a fancy dinner, I’m talking to the waiters and the guest of honor with equal ease. At a press event, I can interview a celebrity without being star struck. And in a pinch, I can pull of a coherent inteview on the fly. Not only that, I have an uncanny ability to get people to tell me stuff they really shouldn’t. I mean, deep secrets that make them say later, “Oh my, I probably shouldn’t have talked about that.” Fortunately for them, I am the epitome of discretion and have never divuled those secrets. Which may be why people tell them to me.
2) I love doing research. I mean, I lovelovelove doing research. I love digging up facts, fact checking, finding tidbits of unusual trivia, solving puzzles. Between my geneology research and my current task tracking down classmates for our 30th high school reunion, I’m in heaven. Every little clue leads to another, which leads to another, until … ta da! I’ve found you!
3) I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I’m not really an expert on anything, however my interests are wildly varied. I read books and watch documentaries and study things like food safety, history, animal behavior, weather, humor, literature, tea, health. I can fix the tailpipe on my Jeep with duct tape and a coat hanger and I can also tell you why that pesky bat keeps finding his way into your bedroom. I can explain why corn is patented as an insecticide (I am not joking) and I have a quote for almost any occasion from everyone from Charles Dickens to Michael Scott. Even if I can’t answer your questions, my Roladex is so full that I at least know how to get to someone who can. Knowing stuff is good; knowing how to find the answers to questions is better.
4) I prefer a non-traditional job. The thought of having a 9 to 5 job makes my soul sad. For more than a decade, I’ve worked at home and set my own schedule. I’ve spent the day at the beach and worked in the middle of the night, just because I wanted to. Where some people might need a set job with set hours, I would rather have a flexible schedule. One I could set would be even better.
5) I have a passport. I have no idea if that’s an employment benefit, but since it expires in two years it would be nice to use it. (Plus, I’m out of skills and I needed a #5.)
Truth be told, my skills pretty much suit me for what I do now: writing. The problem is that there isn’t enough human interaction right now to keep me on track. I need an editor or agent who sets deadlines for me. As in, “I need that chapter on Tuesday by noon” – because an editor or agent really will need it or there will be consequences, and so I’ll actually do it, whereas a writing colleague who offers to help keep me on track will have lost interest 30 seconds after offering to help, and so will I. The problem is that editors and agents want writers who don’t need an editor or agent to give them a deadline. Go figure.
(Aside: I joke a lot about my lack of marketable job skills. But in all honestly, I am a pretty good writer. The one quality that I will admit to, and you know I rarely admit to being good at anything, is that I can take seemingly complicated material and distill it down into lighthearted but still informative material. Freelancing, though, has burned me out.)
I’ve also considered a career working for a private investigator. It’s the only other job I can come up with where skills like knowing how to get people to tell you private details about their life, or being tenacious enough to keep searching for seemingly trivial bits of information, would be critical to getting the job done.
I’m open to (legal) suggestions. Until then, I’ll keep looking. Who knows? Maybe the Hardy Boys need an assistant.